The electrocuted hornbill at PGIMER and (on right) a pair on a tree in Sector 4, Chandigarh.(PHOTOS: UPENDRA GOSWAMI & NEELAM MANSINGH CHOWDHRY)
The electrocuted hornbill at PGIMER and (on right) a pair on a tree in Sector 4, Chandigarh.(PHOTOS: UPENDRA GOSWAMI & NEELAM MANSINGH CHOWDHRY)

Wildbuzz: Fall of a beloved bird

A beautiful Oriental Pied hornbill gets electrocuted and in HP a farmer shoots dead a Rock python in cold blood
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Vikram Jit Singh
UPDATED ON SEP 19, 2020 11:59 PM IST

In an explosion of ugly smoke and sparks early on Thursday morning, a most beloved bird of the City Beautiful was lost to us. It was a juvenile Oriental Pied hornbill, a rare species that has captured the imagination of citizens like few birds have. The hornbill had perched on a transformer at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) residential quarters and was electrocuted.

“My wife saw that happen. I had earlier seen the parents and the juvenile cross the same area 8 to 10 times in the past. While the mature parents never perched on the transformer, the juvenile probably committed a fatal mistake. After that, the anguished parents kept moving in the area and calling out to trace their child but unknown to them it was lying dead in the dense undergrowth at the transformer’s base,” Upendra Goswami, bird photographer and a senior physiotherapist at the PGIMER, told this writer.

Its dapper black and white plumage distinguishes it from the duller Grey hornbill (Chandigarh’s State Bird). It is the male’s imposing casque on the bill that really conjures visions of an exotic bird that we expect to see from a NatGeo documentary on the Amazonian rainforests or a tribal chief from the North-east donning a hornbill hat rather than in the arboreal life of a staid Chandigarh. If the big bill and tail of the Grey hornbill attracts abnormal attention, the Pied hornbill amounts to pure fascination.

Primarily, it is a species ranging in the Himalayan foothills eastwards of Chandigarh towards North-east India. A resident species at the Rajaji, Kalesar and Jim Corbett national parks, a specimen was first sighted at village Sanauli (Zirakpur) in 2011 by Narbir Kahlon. Since then, this migrant has settled down in Chandigarh and has bred successfully. None less than UT administrator, VPS Badnore, has wanted to photograph this rare species. When a striking pair staged an appearance at the Sector 4 residence of a thespian of renowned talents, Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, she could not resist clicking a beautiful picture from her window.

WILDLIFE CRIMES GO VIRAL

The accused python killer, Vir Singh, with shotgun and (on right) a section of the dead python’s body perforated with shotgun pellets. (PHOTOS: VIDEO GRAB & HP FOREST DEPARTMENT)
The accused python killer, Vir Singh, with shotgun and (on right) a section of the dead python’s body perforated with shotgun pellets. (PHOTOS: VIDEO GRAB & HP FOREST DEPARTMENT)

In a chilling reminder of videos of wildlife killings that go viral and turn murderers into virtual heroes, a farmer, Vir Singh, fired two cartridges from a .12 bore double-barrel gun at a Rock python taking shelter amid the dried corn in a house. After shredding the writhing python with shotgun pellets at virtually point-blank range, the killer was cheered by the onlookers as if he had downed a fearsome enemy of the nation!

The incident took place in Hamirpur district of Himachal Pradesh. Another video of a python shot with a double-barrel gun while perched high on a tree in a jungle also went viral. The videos bore a resemblance to those emanating from Punjab showing pigeon fanciers trapping and slaughtering a Shikra and migratory Peregrine falcons as they preyed on their pet birds.

However, unlike Punjab where the forests and wildlife preservation department took two years to act against the falcon killers, Hamirpur divisional forest officer LC Bandana took immediate action when the python videos came to her notice. “We traced out the spot, recovered the python’s body and seized the gun of Vir Singh. We have lodged a FIR against him. The python enjoys the highest protection under the laws, equivalent to that applied to a tiger as it is a Schedule 1 species. However, Singh has not been arrested by the Police. I will be taking up the matter at the higher level with my department. We could not trace out the killer in the video of python shot on a tree,” Bandana told this writer.

vjswild1@gmail.com

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